ADI SHAKTI! : A MEDITATION ON A MANTRA BY Sara Frykenberg, Ph.D.


Aaadee shaktee, namo, namo: I bow to the primal power (which is female and divine).

My Kundalini yoga teacher training required that each student complete a 30 minute daily meditation for forty days straight at some point during our course.  Great!  No problem.  After all, I signed up for teacher training partially because I believed in the physical-spiritual-mental healing powers of meditation.  I chose the Adi Shakti meditation specifically, so I might better understand and embrace myself as a woman and creative being.  My own self-definition of womanhood had been very wounded in my past, so I aimed to embrace this fantastic opportunity.

Aadee shaktee, namo namo—I will bow to the primal female power that I have within me!  I was excited!  I was even eager to do this meditation; but somewhere along the way I discovered that I had underestimated how painful this process would be.  I underestimated my scars and I ultimately found this meditative experience somewhat excruciating.

Aadee Shaktee, namo, namo: I am humbled by her power.

Sarab shaktee, namo, namo: I bow to the all Encompassing Power and Energy.

My initial meditations were fun, exciting and led me to contemplate my sister’s pregnancy.  I enjoyed the mantra and the physical movements the meditation involved.  Very quickly, however, the movement itself became increasingly uncomfortable.  I was sore.  I joked in my journal, “no wonder the mantra engages female creative power; it really targets the abdomen and hips.”  I expected this, as many meditative postures are not exactly “comfortable.”  My response was normal.  What I did not expect was the light-headedness and extreme tiredness I gradually felt.  I was exhausted all the time, barely able to stay awake to meditate.  Tiredness soon gave way to frustration and sometimes anger.  Anger gave way to a flood of emotions and pain.  I started crying my way through 30 minuets of mediation.  I felt deep sorrow.  I remembered physically, mentally and spiritually emotions that hadn’t been touched in years.

The Kundalini Bhakti Mantra (Adi Shakti) is a liberating meditation that helps us to clear paths towards our goals, in part, by helping us to release insecurity.  Well, I found insecurity.  I found blocks to generative movement.  I found self-loathing.  I found my doubts that I had something to contribute to anything in my life.  And I found these emotions hiding everywhere.  The mantra was all-encompassing: it touched everything.  And, all I can think is that it touched everything all at the same time—the way relationship does, the way that change does—which is why it was also so difficult and so exhausting

Sarab shaktee, namo, namo: I accept the reality of relationship and its pervasive and all encompassing nature.  I submit to lively and generative power in the midst of pain, mourning and release.

Pritham bhaagavatee, namo, namo: I bow to that through which God creates.

Somewhere around day thirty of the mediation, I started to shift.  I started to reclaim instead of emote.  I started to examine my pain instead of just feeling it.

Other mantras came into my thoughts.  One of the few English meditations in the Kundalini practice, “I am the grace of God,” is one.  The mantra for the attributes of god was another.  Mourning past abuse, trauma and loss is a really messy process.  It often involves feeling emotions we are taught to put aside.  But when we are truly mourning, when we are not just ripping our scabs off over and over again, we feel past emotion in such a way that a trauma’s power over us changes.  Its ability to cripple us or stand in our way is compromised, which makes space for greater lively be-ing.

Reviewing my journal for this post, I was surprised and happy to find that seeds of a greater liveliness that I am experiencing now were being planted then.  I affirmed me as, “a child of god.”   I bowed to that through which god/dess creates by consciously extending god/dess’ intentional love to myself.  I honored that through which god/dess creates by recognizing the Kundalini, the Shakti, in me: prithan bhaagavatee, namo, namo.

Kundalinee, maataa shaktee, namo, namo:  I bow to the creative power of the Kundalini, the Divine Mother Power

The goddess Shakti is a great divine mother.  She is a part of all creative power, change and as my training textbook helped to explain, she is related to “the interplay between the manifest and the unmanifest qualities of the cosmos and consciousness.”  A part of many religious and cultural traditions, Shakti is understood in many different ways.  But considering her through my yogic experience, I understand her as a mother, female and maybe a doorway into reclaiming or redefining “femininity” as well.

She is in-between.  She is creative and creator—just like us.  But she is unlike us in her scope and understanding of her power.

A recent conversation with Xochitl (who loves the goddess and Jesus :)!), reminded me of the meditation I’m writing about today.  I am not always comfortable with the idea of goddess.  I do not know how to accept her even when a large part of me wants to.  But that conversation and this mediation reminded me that I can practice my faith in the divine female.  I can practice her in what I do, in mantra, in yoga and every time I remind myself that a part of me is already a part of goddess, so I can trust her and me.

Kundalinee, maataa shaktee, namo, namo:  I submit that I am attached to a primal power that is female and generative and divine.  I am a part of that power— I am already a part, even when I am unsure—which is somewhat simpler and somewhat more difficult for me to grasp.

So while I still remember this meditation as excruciating, which it was, I also have a desire to return to it and see what else the goddess can teach me, how she can touch me and help me to love others in their fullness.



Categories: Feminism, Gender and Power, Herstory, Hinduism, Relationality

Tags: , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. Sara, thanks for an inspiring post. You do show 1) why women need the Goddess and how images of Goddess can help to heal our bruised self-images; and 2) why some women may feel more comfortable with a more distant relationship to a male image of God that does not bring up the difficult issues you describe.

    I have always thought that Goddess images also bring up our relationships to our own mothers and grandmothers. Though my mother and I did not always see eye-to-eye on my feminist choices, I never doubted her love for me, and I also had very loving relationships with my grandmothers. Thus I immediately connected with Mary Baker Eddy’s statement that God must be at least as loving as my own mother and with Charles Hartshorne’s statement that the love of God was no “mystery” for him as he had to look no farther than his own mother to understand it. I suspect that women who have more ambivalent or negative relationships with their mothers also find it harder to relate to Goddess images, at least in the beginning.

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  2. The talk of ‘relationship’ is steeped in Western society and Judeo-Christian dogma, all of which is incompatible with even the thought of Adi Shakti. It is not as simple as we are women hence Goddess power is all for or about us or can help us in a better way. Adi Shakti is above and beyond all that. Really now, if you have self esteem issues or broken relationships, sort them out yourself, why? Because what you are doing is trying to find yourself in relation to society and its bonds. When you want to find God and all the power he can release via you, then you are talking about your relationship with the Creator. Now THAT is something worth trying for. All the bonds of the world are only attached to yuor body, not your sould, hence they will all remain here on earth when the soul moves on. The soul, the Atma, is made of the same stuff as the Param Atma, or divine soul-God. Feminism is limited to a gender, Adi Shakti underlines all creation and goes beyond all boundaries, it can never be a feminist issue.

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    • Hi Ravi,
      I appreciate your reply. As I mention above, I undertook this meditative practice as a student and not as a teacher; so I did and do so with a great deal to learn about this connectedness to the divine. I agree that touching the divine and the power that can come from this relationship is something worth working towards.
      Above, I give my experience of the meditation the first time I did it seriously– which, yes, brought up those issues, as you put it, that were tied to my body.
      While I agree that Adi Shakti is not a ‘feminist issue,’ it does not mean that I, as a feminist, do not come to the meditation for the first time with this lens or seeking god/dess through this lens. As you say, Adi Shakti underlines all creation, and I am a part of this creation, body and soul while here on this plane. My intention here is not to limit Shakti– and really, how could I?– rather, I am simply discussing my first encounter with the power of this meditation from the limited lens that I have.
      I do appreciate the perspective you give to the meditation, which is important here.

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    • It always surprises me when someone presumes to evaluate another’s experience of the Divine. When I encountered Divine Mother through bija mantra chanting, She took me as I was and systematically healed me of so many long standing issues–something I was not expecting. Everyone is unique; so is our experience. I’m glad I had no preconceptions; that openness made everything possible

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  3. As a Hindu man from India, I feel disturbed by West’s obsession with sex and the sheer degradation it exposes women to (young women are in many cases, willing participants to their own degradation in the name of sexual freedoms). They tend to portray India as a rape culture country but Indian Hindus are far removed from that sort of mindset. A few bad apples don’t speak for the rest of us. The West has lost its moral compass for some time now. It’s good that Hindu beliefs like “Hare Rama Hare Krishna” and “Adi Shakti” are being understood now. But, to what extent will these new age belief systems benefit Westerners remains in question. You all belong a to a very materialistic, selfish culture where everything is about one’s own ego. As long as you’re not willing to shed that ego permanently, there will be dissatisfaction.

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